David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | david@davidaltshuler.com

You say POT-tato

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This just in: there is pot at every school in this country. Even ten years ago, there were day schools and boarding schools that were free of kids who use marijuana. Not anymore. Every school in this country has students who consider “weed” part of a good breakfast. Every school.

The difference between institutions is whether or not the school acknowledges that—at the risk of mixing a metaphor—the emperor is stoned off his ass. 

I counsel students who are being asked to find alternative placements. Expulsion may involve litigation, whereas “your educational needs may be better served elsewhere” is a euphemism not involving attorneys. My clients have been booted from every "top" school you can name. The bigger the name, the bigger the scandal. The more prestigious the school, the more the kids struggle with stress, self-harm, self medicating, mental health issues of all stripes. No school is immune from 15 year olds getting high any more than 15 year olds with runny noses. 

The difference between a “top” boarding school—one that admits a small percentage of its applicants—and a school of more modest reputation—one that admits virtually every qualified applicant—is that the latter is more likely to acknowledge that there are issues on campus. Counter intuitively, the shorter the waiting list for admission, the more likely the school is to deal with pot on campus.

Policies vary. Some schools are “one and done.“ Some schools are “teachable moment.“ And there are still schools that are “shocked! shocked!” to find that enrolled kids are using drugs. "De-feat," "De-fense," and "De-nial" all begin with the same letter.

Which is why I am more than a tad underwhelmed with colleagues who discover—to their outraged horror—that there is a “drug culture” at Venerable High. Like proud cats depositing a rodent corpse at my feet, my fellow counselors disclose in a conspiratorial hush their news that the sun sets in the west. 

Sometimes the insights are reminiscent of the kindergarten game of telephone: I heard about a student whose cousin’s best friend’s mother-in-law’ educational consultant's husband’s girlfriend read on-line that there were kids at that school smoking pot. Sometimes the Intel is more direct: my daughter’s roommate’s friend’s older brother knew someone who sold pot. Either way, you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows. 

Either way, here’s a crazy idea. How about we address the problem rather than just pointing to the substance on our shoe pretending it’s something other than what it is? I vote for education, counseling, open conversations rather than denial and finger-pointing. If you won't refer to a school because there's an issue with illegal drugs, the list of schools to which you will refer will be zero schools long.

There is a religious tradition with an admonition against gossip. The elders suggest that telling stories about another person is like ripping open a feather pillow. It is easy to disperse the contents, harder to collect them all afterwards. Instead of pointing fingers at schools with drug problems, we should acknowledge that every child needs our insight and support.

Some day admissions counselors will wake up and smell the marijuana. Their decisions will consider character, sobriety, and good sense rather than obsessing about grades, course selection, and test scores. In the meantime, our duty as parents remains clear: open, honest communication with our kids. Help them to deal with the inevitable offers and pressures to derail their educations rather than pretending that the kids who will offer them pot are "at some other school" somewhere else. 



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